Justin Pearson is no stranger to the road. Dude has been staring at blacktop and lane dividers in the name of playing dive bars and assorted shit holes around the world for ‘round about twenty years in a list of bands considered impressive by even the most cynical of douche-monkeys out there (The Locust, Swing Kids, Some Girls, Holy Molar, Dead Cross, Head Wound City, etc…). In three days, Retox - vocalist Pearson, guitarist Ryan Bergmann, bassist Michael Crain and drummer Brian Evans - will be heading out for a brief coast-to-coast jaunt. And for those of you with an aversion to being away from home for any amount of time, let alone a two-and-a-half week tour, know that I use the word “brief” deliberately because previously Pearson once described an upcoming tour to me thusly: “This tour is only going to be five weeks…” This run will be in support of latest release, Beneath California and instead of waiting until the curtain’s been closed, Justin submitted a “pre-tour diary,” as it were. As mentioned, he’s been at this a while and considers many of the stops on the itinerary usual haunts, so he’s basically discussed some his experiences and expectations, though it’ll become pretty obvious pretty quickly which locales he’s more fond of. In case you’re unfamiliar, here’s what Retox sound like. Go see them. I’ve seen them a bunch and they’ve never disappointed.
THE TIME FOR ART IS OVER
By Justin Pearson
Everything has changed. Pick a city, think about months, years, and even decades past, and literally everything has changed. It stands to reason, then, that two decades of touring experience has been the same way for all of the projects I’ve been part of over the years. I can spew out some cliché snotty remark, like, “Change comes one funeral at a time,” people can chime in on social media saying my band sucks safely behind their computer screens or smart phones, and we can chalk this up to my bad attitude. But fuck, don’t get me wrong, again. No seriously, don’t. I’m so appreciative that I get to tour around parts of the world, and get to meet people, see as much as I can take in, and somehow not die. Still, the world is changing. Look at this current presidential election, for one. It’s so totally frightening/funny that I can’t make sense of most things anymore.
I’m in some weird grey zone. For instance, I don’t really end up making money on tour, or by doing anything creative. I do this because it chose me. Yeah, sounds super lame, but it’s the truth. I’d love to finally tour in a bus, come home to a royalty check and not have to hustle every day, but I’m not holding my breath. Really, as long as I don’t die and my band puts up with me being a food snob, I will appreciate every second of this crap I do. The only legitimate complaint I have is how I can’t really have my dog tour with me.
Retox is about to depart on a U.S. tour, and before I get started, I wanted to share my observations and perceptions of some select cities and the changes that I feel are relevant. Plus, once Trump takes over and fully fucks everyone - not just the Muslims and Mexicans... everyone - we can all reflect back and wish things were at this mediocre state we’ve plateaued at in recent times.
Leaving the superior state of the bunch, more commonly known as California (specifically, Southern California), you’ll get a shock a couple hours east. The state of Arizona has always been a mean and nasty place in my experience. I’m allowed to say “Fuck you, Arizona,” by the way. I did twelve years there as a kid. I love my grandmother who lives there, as well as a handful of really rad friends, but fuck that place. Weather sucks, all the past and current white power crap obviously sucks, and well, the shows tend to as well. It’s one of those places that you sort of have to go to, though, if you are living in the corner of the country. Tucson is easily the better of the cities there. Chalk it up to the college students, I guess, since over the years it has taken the weird, dried out cake away from Phoenix. Anyhow, it’s so crazy to see the institutional racism become a prominent and potent thing more and more. On my 15th birthday I went to see Suicidal Tendencies there. There was this neo-Nazi just chillin’ in the crowd, shirt off, and with a tattoo on his upper arm that read “I Hate Niggers.” Twenty-five years later, Retox opens for Suicidal there, and the band who opened the show had strippers dressed as cops as part of their stage performance and I was still called “faggot” and “pussy” by the audience. I mean, it’s 2016. Good luck people.
Let’s see… The giant state of Texas is always an interesting place. You get the entire spectrum of life there. Of course, being a “leftist-commie-punk” I dig Austin - that is, when it’s not SXSW time. Aside from my fascination with the Kennedy assassination in Dallas, I just scoot through the various cities in Texas that will have me in any of the bands I’m in and suck it all in. At times, I long for the old cowboy culture, but more so something to trip out on. As that sort of fades into the relics of the past, I see the oversized state function more and more like a Super Big Gulp. I don’t drink soda, so I just keep hydrated with good ol’ water and move along, thanking the universe that I am not going to get pregnant there, and can avoid all the anti-choice patriarchy rhetoric that is still on the forefront of the state’s agenda.
Passing through Brooklyn, Philly, DC… you get it. The culture in those cities tends to be rich with a variety of art, legitimate style, and those places tend to have a relevant push and pull of what is right and wrong, keeping that life pendulum in motion, creating new life, rad music, and some awesome friends. People get lazy and shows suck, and still, people somehow figure out what is going on and come out… it’s that back and forth motion. Let’s chalk the negative side of that concept up to social media. We know everything and we are being oversaturated. Nothing is special, unless you make it special. Being able to see comrades from bands in those geographical areas of the country is what keeps it rad for me. It’s part nostalgia, and part deleting all expectations and seeing what is new and relevant.
Of course playing Chicago is almost always one of my favorite stops on a tour. I was born there and have gone back many, many times throughout my life, seeing it constantly change. For some reason, it seems to change for the better. Well, aside from the parking. But Chicago is a city that has had so much rad music come out of it, and it still does. Bands such as Los Crudos, The Flying Luttenbachers, Paper Mice, etc. It has great venues, still. It has great food, still. It has great people, still. But the weather typically blows, otherwise I would consider living there someday.
The home stretch, heading back west, always breathes a breath of fresh air in ya. You see the final destination and you can tolerate things a bit more. Of course, St. Louis is a drag. You just trek through it and move on to the next city, hoping you don’t get robbed again when you run into the grocery store to buy chips and humus at midnight. But of course places like Denver are always rad. The scenery is still there, shows are always fun and full of good people, and you get to be back in Southern California in a day or so.
Finally, there is San Diego. Burritos, my bed, great weather… it’s sort of all there. And just like everything else, it’s always changing. The “scene” will never be the same, and it never will be like it was at any point in the past. We humans will never be the same either, so who cares. We are moving in so many directions and if I had the answer to where it’s all going, I would sell it to you and everyone else, and use the money to hitch a ride on one of those Space-X rockets out of here. But for now, I’m sticking around (as far as I can tell), and I will continue to do what I know best. Hope to see you at some point in time.
Retox will be supported by He Whose Ox is Gored and Silent, Three One G’s latest signed band featuring members of All Leather and Maniqui Lazer.
August 28 - Fullerton, CA @ Slidebar** (no He Whose Ox is Gored)
August 30 - Tucscon, AZ @ Club Congress
August 31 - Albuqueque, NM @ Launchpad
September 1 - Dallas, TX @ Three Links
September 2 - Austin, TX @ Dirty Dog
September 4 - Atlanta, GA @ Masquerade
September 5 - Virginia Beach, VA @ Shakas
September 6 - Brooklyn, NY @ Saint Vitus
September 7 - Pittsburgh, PA @ Smiling Moose
September 8 - Philadelphia, PA @ Voltage
September 9 - Washington, DC @ DC9
September 10 - Cleveland, OH @ Now That’s Class
September 11 - Chicago, IL @ Beat Kitchen
September 12 - St. Louis, MO @ Fubar
September 13 - Des Moines, IA @ Vaudeville Mews
September 14 - Denver, CO @ Hi Dive
September 16 - San Diego, CA @ Soda Bar ** (no He Whose Ox is Gored)